Over the past year or so there have been several complaints from different communities in London about the proliferation of betting shops, and now the mayor has asked for changes in national planning to rein them in. On Tuesday, Boris Johnson wrote to MP Eric Pickles asking for legislation that would require operators of the shops to obtain planning permission for any new betting establishment.
Mayor Johnson said if the new regulation is implemented he might change his own London Plan to give individual boroughs more say in the types of business clusters they feel would be most beneficial in their areas. He said that betting shops in general are a good source of entertainment and have a role in British culture, but an overdose of them in the same community has a negative impact on people visiting and shopping in the area.
The complaints have come partly as a result of the influx of new betting shops in boroughs like Hackney, where there are 64 betting shops, with eight of them on Mare Street alone. The feeling is that such a plethora of these shops will encourage gambling and its inevitable adjunct, debt. This in turn leads to a less attractive ‘quality of life’ for local residents and possibly a decrease in trade for other types of businesses in the area.
At present, no planning permission is required for opening a new betting shop in a vacant bank or pub, and the input of local residents has very little weight in the decision to allow one to open. The fear is that with a betting shop on virtually every corner, as is the case in some areas of London, more young people will be attracted, become addicted and join the ranks of the gambling fringe that tends to cause mischief in the form of stealing and other antisocial behaviour.